Lethal strikes by armed drones are America’s best and less obtrusive method of killing Islamic militants and dismantling their terror networks while minimizing civilian casualties. Or they’re a misguided and counter-productive attempt at sterilizing the dirty work of counter-terrorism — one that serves as a rallying cry for terrorist recruiters and ends up creating more militants than it eliminates.
Those are the opposing views in one of the most urgent debates in military, policy and humanitarian circles today. Now a new, ground-level investigation by a daring American researcher adds a fresh wrinkle to the controversy. Chris Swift, a fellow at the University of Virginia’s Center for National Security Law, spent a week in late May interviewing around 40 tribal leaders in southern Yemen, one of the major drone battlegrounds.